This was the title of a leader in the Economist in August. The sub-head was "The world is losing the war against climate change."
The article included the following:
- Three years after countries vowed in Paris to keep warming “well below” 2°C relative to pre-industrial levels, greenhouse-gas emissions are up again.
- So are investments in oil and gas.
- In 2017, for the first time in four years, demand for coal rose.
- Subsidies for renewables, such as wind and solar power, are dwindling in many places and investment has stalled.
- In 2006-16, as Asia’s emerging economies forged ahead, their energy consumption rose by 40%. The use of coal, easily the dirtiest fossil fuel, grew at an annual rate of 3.1%. Use of cleaner natural gas grew by 5.2% and of oil by 2.9%.
- Even as green fund managers threaten to pull back from oil companies, state-owned behemoths in the Middle East and Russia see Asian demand as a compelling reason to invest.
- Coal generates not merely 80% of India’s electricity, but also underpins the economies of some of its poorest states (see this former detail).
- Because China’s 1m-plus electric cars draw their oomph from an electricity grid that draws two-thirds of its power from coal, they produce more carbon dioxide than some fuel-efficient petrol-driven models.
This is how the article ends:
"Western countries grew wealthy on a carbon-heavy diet of industrial development. They must honour their commitment in the Paris agreement to help poorer places both adapt to a warmer Earth and also abate future emissions without sacrificing the growth needed to leave poverty behind. Averting climate change will come at a short-term financial cost—although the shift from carbon may eventually enrich the economy, as the move to carbon-burning cars, lorries and electricity did in the 20th century. Politicians have an essential role to play in making the case for reform and in ensuring that the most vulnerable do not bear the brunt of the change. Perhaps global warming will help them fire up the collective will. Sadly, the world looks poised to get a lot hotter first."
Gloomy stuff, but you see this seeming indifference reflected in many aspects of daily life when the most existential issue we face is usually not even relegated to an after-thought. It's just not thought about at all. A social focus on the SDGs offers an opportunity to redress this issue, but even this is problematic when most of the enthusiasts are focused on social justice at the expense of everything – or so it seems.